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Council to consider guidelines for intergovernmental agreements

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Roswell city councilors are being asked to consider a new ordinance regarding written agreements between the city and other governmental entities for police, fire and rescue, and other services provided on a regular basis outside the city limits.

The draft of an Intergovernmental Agreement ordinance received the recommendation of the three Roswell City Council Legal Committee members present at the group’s March 25 meeting. City Councilors Judy Stubbs, Barry Foster and Jason Perry voted to forward the item to the City Council for its April 8 meeting. City councilors are expected to discuss whether to hold a public hearing, which is required before the governing body could vote on the ordinance.

City Attorney Parker Patterson called the ordinance a “novel concept” for Roswell, although similar ones have been adopted by other local governments in New Mexico.

“This proposed ordinance would basically mandate and require us to go and enter into these intergovernmental agreements to address mutual aid between the city and different entities,” Patterson said.

The ordinance would establish just the general guidelines for the agreements, he said. Each memorandum of understanding or joint power agreement would have to be negotiated separately by the city units involved and their counterparts at other local governments. At this point, the City Council would have to approve of all agreements.

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The city already has several arrangements in place, according to Deputy City Manager Mike Mathews. Some examples are for ambulance services in Chaves County, a metro narcotics task force, medical rescue services in the area, animal control services in the county, a violent crime task force with towns in Chaves County, and police and fire assistance to Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.

Patterson said the agreements would help clarify responsibilities and assist the city in recovering costs for its services so as not to cause undue burden on local taxpayers. Waivers of costs also would be possible.

Neeb said some existing agreements need to be updated, with Roswell Fire Chief Matt Miller adding that some of the financial agreements are based on much fewer service calls than now experienced.

Miller explained that emergency calls used to number about 3,500 to 3,600 calls a year. Now they total about 10,000 annually, with about 17% being fire or medical rescue calls. Miller said a “significant number” of the fire and rescue calls come from outside the city.

Neeb also said the city should respond only if called and only if the city can meet its own needs for workforce and equipment. He said he does not want other agencies to rely too much on the city.

“That means if we don’t respond to a call that is outside of our boundaries at some point in time, I am a little afraid that because they get too comfortable utilizing us that they are not building their public safety in order to keep their public safety up as well,” he said.

Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said the agreements could help protect the city from legal liability. He said that is needed now especially because the New Mexico Civil Rights Act that just passed the state Legislature waives a governmental entity’s defense of limited immunity against lawsuits.

“We need to have the standards put into place because we are the entity that is leaving our jurisdiction to provide help,” he said.

Neeb said the ordinance is not intended to bar the city from providing services on an emergency basis to a governmental entity not covered by a written agreement. The draft ordinance does indicate, though, that an agreement would have to be in place if services were expected on an ongoing basis.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.